I've lost track of how many times I've heard pastors and Christian authors quote the statistic that divorce rates are the same for church-goers as in the general population. This is misleading and disheartening to many devout Christians. The truth is, church attendance has a profound correlation with a reduced probability of divorce.
Sociologists and economists studying religion tend to use frequency of church attendance as a proxy for religiosity. (The notion being that those more serious about their faith are more likely to be involved in church than those less serious.) This measurement has far more predictive power on a whole host of social outcomes than simply asking if someone is a Christian.
To illustrate, above is a graph I just created in Stata showing the impact of church attendance on divorce rates. (Based on data from the 2006 General Social Survey.) The effect is particularly strong for men who attend church on a weekly basis.
Here are a few takeaways from the graph:
- Just over half of non-weekly church attenders who have ever been married have been divorced at least once.
- Approximately 41% of women who attend church weekly who have ever been married have been divorced at least once. One way to think of this is that weekly church attendance is correlated with an approximately 20% reduction in the probability of divorce for women.
- Approximately 32% of men who attend church weekly who have ever been married have been divorced at least once. One way to think of this is that weekly church attendance is correlated with an approximately 40% reduction in the probability of divorce for men.
- Part of the lessened effect for women is likely due to the fact that more women than men attend church on a weekly basis. Statistically, this means weekly church attending women are more likely to be married to a non-weekly attending man than vice-versa.
- This data may actually understate the differences between weekly and non-weekly church attenders. Weekly attenders are more likely to get married, while non-weekly church attenders are more likely to cohabit as alternative to marriage. (Cohabitation has a much higher likelihood of dissolution than marriage.)
See more of my posts on the economics of religion.